What do my narratives sound like?
By Justin Hodgson, Indiana University
Even with the unique approach in this literacy narrative, being told from the point of view of the story (as personified), there is a strange familiarity in Hovancsek’s work. As I listened to the joyous innocence in the narrative voice and felt the story itself grow, reflecting the evolution of the author/writer herself, I couldn’t help but think of the stories I have written over the years—from the snowman stories I submitted to the Young Authors competitions in 3 rd grade to the creative non-fiction in some of my undergraduate courses. And it seems to me that perhaps one of the best ways to understand something of a person’s literacy development (narrative or otherwise) is by examining their writings over time—tracking their development across literacy engagements. This, of course, would be a decidedly more analytical practice than what traditional literacy narratives call for, but there is something uniquely revealing in Hovancsek’s narrative and I believe it stems from the insight gleaned throughout these critical and creative checkpoints: i.e., these moments of reconnection between the story (and its development) and the author as she revisits, rewrites, and revises a signature narrative over many years.
Of course, most of us do not have a singular story that we revisit again and again that spans from early elementary to college. We might revisit a theme, a main character, or a standing tension across those years, but rarely do we write and/or rewrite the same story across a decade of education. And perhaps this is the root of the joy (and value) of this literacy narrative: the stability of the story as narrator allows us to understand the author’s literacy development as she understands it through these writing touchstones. But I can’t help but think about what the various works I have created over the years would reveal (to me and to others) about my literacy journey—especially if factoring in the capturing of and/or telling of stories through non-textual media. I mean, what kind of voice would my creations have if they were characters in a narrative highlighting my own development. Some of them would be light and innocent, to be sure, but others would be angry or ripe with suspension. I can think of at least two creations whose narrative voice would be that of Liam Neesen’s Bryan Mills character from the Taken films. Interesting, perhaps. But not sure I want that to be the major voice in my own representation. But what this points to, more rootly, is that there is no singular story or character that could
work for me in the way this does for Hovancsek. If mine were a story, it would be a giant family dinner with lots of loud relatives shouting over one another. It might be entertaining. But it might also be the kind of thing where you long for a phone call or text, anything really, to give you a reason to leave.
Of course, beyond my attempts to reconcile my own writing history with this fascinating narrative from Hovancsek, what really kept popping up for me what easily I could imagine the story as a twitter account, particularly in the moments where it takes shots at the author. There is a subtle snark at times that could land well in the twitterverse. And I think daily updates from something like @thewritingofTheMysteryofKalahari or @TheForgottenJournal could be wildlyengaging, and might even launch other similar voices. What would the story sound like for classical works like George Eliot’s Silas Marner or Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo—whether as literacy narrative or as informative voice providing in-process reflections, judgments of the author, frustrations of progress, revelations, and the like. All of which is to say, beyond the rich layers of representation of her own literacy narrative, there is fundamentally a generative quality to this creation by Hovancsek; it is, among other things, a piece that invites one to imagine how this kind of engagement could take flight in a multitude of spaces.